A guest post by Jodey Hogeland


Dell Technologies and VMware have had a very collaborative relationship throughout the years, and it is not slowing down. For evidence of this, you need not look any further than Dell PowerStore as a prime example.

Since hitting the market in 2020, PowerStore has had innovative VMware integration and capabilities like native vVol support, Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) for vSphere, but the innovation didn’t stop there. In subsequent software updates PowerStore launched collaborative VMware innovation like NVMe/TCP, direct VMware VM visibility inside of PowerStore manager, and up to a 10x performance increase in VMware XCOPY operations.

PowerStore’s initial generation also offered customers a unique capability branded as AppsON which allowed ESXi to be installed directly on PowerStore hardware. This deployment method married together scalable NVMe storage with rich data services and direct VMware virtual machine deployments.

The deep integration between PowerStore and VMware has since graduated to what is now called Dynamic AppsON, a co-solution between VxRail and PowerStore that brings all our collective innovation together. Customers can leverage the full performance and scalability of any PowerStore model in combination with VxRail Dynamic Nodes which are storageless.

With all of this collaboration and co-innovation, the intent of this article is to overview PowerStore + VMware capabilities and point directly to resources that can be leveraged regarding understanding, implementation and usage.


PowerStore supports VMware usage in three distinct methodologies:

1.     Virtual Volume (vVol) Datastores

2.     Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) Datastores

3.     Network File System (NFS) Datastores

PowerStore customers can leverage all of these methods independently or simultaneously. Because PowerStore is an enterprise unified architecture, this gives customers flexibility regarding VMware deployment and utilization methodologies.

For example, some customers may be running traditional VMFS or NFS datastores but are wanting to test or make a transition to vVol’s. On PowerStore, customers can run all of these environments simultaneously on the same PowerStore array. This is a benefit of the enterprise grade unified architecture.

Example of streamlined VMware NFS Datastore creation on PowerStore.

One of the first documents that PowerStore customers need to be aware of is the PowerStore Host Configuration Guide. “This document provides guidelines and best practices on attaching and configuring external hosts to PowerStore systems, or in conjunction with other storage systems. It includes information on topics such as multipathing, zoning, and timeouts. This document may also include references to issues found in the field and notify you on known issues. Regarding ESXi hosts, this document provides guidelines only for configuring ESXi hosts that are connected externally to PowerStore.”

End-to-End VMware Visibility

From the initial launch of PowerStore, two plus years ago, customers could take advantage of VMware vVol visibility directly from the PowerStore Manager interface (GUI). This capability is initiated simply by establishing an authorized connection between PowerStore and your vCenter Server. This can be done by navigating to the “Compute” tab in PowerStore Manager.

Once this connection is established, PowerStore can import real-time information to give storage administrators granular visibility into vVol environments. Storage administrators can easily view what VM’s are running, their size, resource utilization, datastore location, and vSphere host association.

As of this writing, the current version of PowerStore OS is 3.2. PowerStore OS 3.0 introduced enhancements to this granular visibility by adding support for both VMFS and NFS datastores.

You can see the power of flexibility and end-to-end visibility working together here. PowerStore users can get detailed statistics and information about the virtual machine by clicking on the VM name.

Note that you can easily view detailed information such as:

  1. vSphere host association
  2. Datastore association
  3. Capacity – Storage capacity used by the VM
  4. Compute Performance – CPU and Memory usage of the VM
  5. Storage Performance – Storage level performance characteristics of the VM
  6. Alerts
  7. Protection – VM level snapshots and replication (PowerStore Protection Policies)
  8. Virtual Volumes – What vVols is the VM associated with and what Storage Containers on PowerStore

Speaking of Storage Containers, PowerStore uses the same vernacular as VMware with regards to how VMs are stored in virtual volumes (vVols).

Per VMware, “Unlike traditional LUN and NFS-based storage, the Virtual Volumes functionality does not require preconfigured volumes on a storage side. Instead, Virtual Volumes uses a storage container. It is a pool of raw storage capacity or an aggregation of storage capabilities that a storage system can provide to virtual volumes.

A storage container is a part of the logical storage fabric and is a logical unit of the underlying hardware. The storage container logically groups virtual volumes based on management and administrative needs. For example, the storage container can contain all virtual volumes created for a tenant in a multitenant deployment, or a department in an enterprise deployment. Each storage container serves as a virtual volume store and virtual volumes are allocated out of the storage container capacity.”

PowerStore Storage Containers are designed specifically for vVol usage and integration. In the PowerStore Manager Overview Guide you can see that “you can use a storage container to present vVol storage from PowerStore to vSphere. vSphere mounts the storage container as a vVol datastore and makes it available for VM storage. In PowerStoreOS versions 3.0 and later, storage containers are classified as either SCSI or NVMe. This classification dictates the storage protocol that they support. In previous versions of PowerStoreOS, all storage containers were considered SCSI by default. A storage container spans all appliances in the cluster and uses storage from each. The specific appliance that a given vVol resides on is visible in PowerStore Manager, and you can migrate a vVol between appliances in the same cluster.

By using the same terminology and definitional terms, the usability becomes very purposeful and streamlines VM and storage administration tasks.

VMware Workload Protection

Because PowerStore is an enterprise class storage array, availability and uptime are critical to customers. PowerStore is architected for 99.9999% availability and provides robust array level data protection capabilities like Dynamic Resiliency Engine (DRE), immutable snapshots, asynchronous replication, and native metro (active/active sites) volume.

Leveraging integrated protection is simple thanks to PowerStore Protection Policies. Protection Policies are created in a matter of seconds and consist of a set of snapshot and replication rules / schedules and applied directly to a volume or group of volumes.

While PowerStore does support VMware SRM asynchronous replication of vVol VM’s, Robert Weilhammer has written an excellent article detailing how customers can replicate VMware vVol’s using PowerCLI.

Virtual Volumes (vVols)

Since PowerStore’s inception, Dell has put an emphasis on positioning PowerStore as the go-to storage platform for vVols and today, PowerStore has one of the fastest growing vVol customer bases in the industry.

As mentioned above, VMware vVols give customers a volume level granularity for VM datastores using storage containers, giving you full control of your VMware environment and enable VM administrators to manage more granularly from vCenter.

A core advantage of vVols is the concept of storage policy-based management (SPBM), which eliminates the need for storage provisioning and makes use of VM-level storage policies that can be applied or changed at any time. SPBM accelerates storage operations and reduces the need for specialized skills for storage infrastructure.

vVols and SPBM create a more simplified and efficient operating model for your VM environment, allowing you to better meet your SLAs and enabling data mobility use cases.

As mentioned above, there is no sacrificing features or functionality with PowerStore regarding vVols. Customers can teake advantage of vVol async replication, vVol snaps/clones, vVol migration, and support for both SCSI (FCP/iSCSI) and NVMe vVols connecitvity.

Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) Plugin

As you have read, PowerStore offers unique array-side integration for VMware users to get granular information from within the PowerStore Manager interface. Along with native array-side VMware integration and visibility, Dell also offers the Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) for VMware vSphere Client. Dell VSI is a no cost plug-in for VMware vCenter and it allows VMware administrators to view, provision, monitor, and manage datastores on Dell storage systems from the vCenter.

There are circumstances where VMware administrators want to provision and manage datastores and virtual machines on Dell storage systems without the direct involvement of the storage administrator. This is where VSI comes into play. From a single pane of glass admins can get a simplified management experience.

Some of the VSI plugin supported actions for PowerStore:

  1. Ability to manage host connectivity and apply best practice settings
  2. Manage all your VM datastores
  3. Manage protection policies (including snapshots and replication rules)
  4. Manage metro replication sessions

You can refer to the VSI documentation for a a full list of supported tasks with PowerStore here Support for VSI for VMware vSphere Web Client. There is also a very nice demo of VSI here.


Back in February, 2022 with the release of PowerStore 2.1, Dell was proud to be first to market with PowerStore NVMe/TCP support for front-end host connectivity. This was done in close collaboration with VMware and caught the industry by surprise as the initial focus for NVMe-oF Ethernet support was with NVMe/RoCEv2.

It is now clear that NVMe/TCP will be the preferred Ethernet option in the datacenter of the future. It has all the advantages across the board, including cost, simplicity, performance, ubiquity, and scalability.

With NVMe/TCP you get ultra-low, direct-connect like, latency over your SAN network. When you combine this capability with 100GbE support (launched in PowerStore 3.0), NVMe/TCP is a game changer.

Bringing it all together with Dynamic AppsON

The deep co-integration and co-innovation between Dell and VMware that we have highlighted in this article culminates in the ultimate VMware-centric solution, Dynamic AppsON.

Dynamic AppsON is a co-solution between VxRail and PowerStore. Customers can connect VxRail compute-only Dynamic Nodes with any PowerStore T array for an integrated solution that brings the best of both worlds. This combines the benefits VxRail HCI Life Cycle Management with the enterprise-class storage features of PowerStore (i.e. database/transactional workloads, guaranteed 4:1 DRR, deep VMware/vVol integration, NVMe ecosystem support, metro replication support, etc). With the benefit of the scale-out/scale-up of PowerStore’s architecture, you can scale your storage environment completely independent of the compute environment. This allows you to make the most of your infrastructure and avoid stranded/unused resources.

The combination of VxRail LCM, VSI, NVMe/TCP, and PowerStore’s deep VMware/vVol integration creates a powerful end-to-end solution that meets more of your VMware needs. Speaking plainly, Dynamic AppsON bridges the divide between HCI / CI / 3-tier.

Conclusion and Resource

It is very clear that since PowerStore first hit the market VMware integration was top of mind and has only progressed. Here is a list of resources that PowerStore + VMware users need to be aware of:

  1. PowerStore File capabilities – specifies VMware over NFS and streamlined VMware/NFS deployments
  2. PowerStore Host Config Guide (HCG) – Provides guidelines and best practices on attaching and configuring external hosts (ESXi) to PowerStore systems.
  3. PowerStore Virtualization Integration – Full overview of ESXi / VMware integration on PowerStore
  4. PowerStore and VMware Horizon VDI Best Practices – Provides best practices for deploying VMware Horizon virtual desktops with Dell EMC PowerStore. It also includes recommendations for performance, availability, scalability, and integration.
  5. PowerStore VMware SRM Best Practices –  Best practices for automated disaster recovery of virtualized workloads using Dell PowerStore arrays, replication, and VMware Site Recovery Manager
  6. PowerStore VMware vSphere Best Practices – Provides best practices for integrating VMware vSphere hosts with PowerStore.
  7. PowerStore VMware vSphere with Tanzu and TKG Clusters – Configuration and integration between Dell PowerStore arrays and VMware vSphere with Tanzu and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid guest clusters.

These resources and MANY more can be found on Dell Technologies Info Hub.

Special thanks to my good friend Rabeeh Boufaissal for contributing to this article. Rabeeh is a Product Manager at Dell Technologies and focuses on Virtualization integration for PowerStore. Rabeeh has 10+ years of experience in engineering and product management.

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